From Issue 14: "The Girl Who Survived by Pretending to Be a Corpse" by Roy Bentley (Poetry)

The Girl Who Survived by Pretending to Be a Corpse

Roy Bentley

Reading time: Approximately 3 minutes

"The Girl Who Survived by Pretending To Be A Corpse" first appeared in Issue 14 of Tahoma Literary Review. The idea of pretending, or mimicking, death in order to survive, to live, resonated with me as soon as I read it. Not only because of the hinted war imagery present in this verse, but as someone who identifies as female and who has faced what has felt like a thousand small deaths over the years to keep my voice alive. To silence ourselves for the sake of personal safety is a deeply tragic and difficult choice. This work by Roy Bentley addresses the courage it takes to survive and what victory can mean.

We'd love to know what you think of it. Let us know by posting over at our Facebook page, or reaching out to us on Twitter. Enjoy the reading!

Mare Heron Hake

Poetry Editor




Imagine how motionless she needed to be. And at once.

She said she copied Embassy statuary, aping tranquility


if not the dark insolence at the heart of everything male.

Said that the soldier-shapes kicked dirt over them. This,


after God stopped shielding her, declaring it was her job.

When it was quiet, she started pushing up with her legs,


steering herself over and through the arms of the fallen.

Who knew there was this italicizing brightness to stars


that didn’t so much penetrate the loose soil as imbue it.

That night, a young woman found in herself the resolve


to rise and be dusted off by a wallow for water buffaloes.

To insist on a next and next breath, and call that Justice.



reprinted with the permission of the poet


Roy Bentley had this to say about his work:

This was inspired by Truong Thi Le, 30 years old at the time of the My Lai Massacre. She survived the shooting of nearly 700 villagers that day by burrowing under corpses and being still. As someone who served stateside in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, I felt that many of us survived that time in our history as a consequence of the sacrifice of others, and this story spoke to the universality of that need not to see your life forfeited anonymously and without remorse on the part of your killers.


Roy Bentley is the author of Walking with Eve in the Loved City, a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize, and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House), which won the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize; a new book, American Loneliness, is due out in April of 2019 from Lost Horse Press.